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Myth 005

Posted on 3rd August 2009 in Insight
Written by: Andy Wickes

Accessible sites are dull sites.

Poppycock.

It’s often been noted that the various checkpoints required to meet accessibility standards in web design, mean that the introduction of dynamic or rich media content into a site becomes far more difficult, and therefore the checkpoints get ignored. An accessible site has to work suitably on a low specification machine, with an old browser, and possibly no provision for whizzy plug-ins to run Flash or Java, and therefore designers of complex and engaging sites often ignore accessibility altogether, or commit the hanging offence of building a ‘low vision’ version of the site which meets accessibility guidelines and then is never updated.

The truth is, that accessible sites can be engaging, and can be attractive, but like all complex constructs, they need planning.

From the outset you must be sure what level of accessibility you will meet, and ensure that all content provided meets these standards. If animation is to be used, then we know it should come with a ‘pause’ control to meet its requisite checkpoint. Be aware of this when you commission the content. If you are using JavaScript then take the time to ensure it validates, and take the time to ensure the site works without it. If you use Flash content on the site then ensure it has accompanying content for those without the plug-ins.

In almost all cases, the argument put forward for why a given site does not validate is that the checkpoints are ‘too strict’, or that ‘if we validated the site, then it would be flat text and images only!’ and all are, frankly, nonsense. Whilst the AA * and AAA ~ guidelines are very prescriptive in their definitions, they are all common sense, and focused on ensuring that content delivered across pages can be accessed as best as it humanly possibly, regardless of hardware, software or ability. Preparation is all, as is the ability to know your audience.

So ignore accessibility at your peril, and know that only dull people, build dull sites.

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